Papyrus Strips Ryan Robertson’s Objections Naked

Get this: A strip of ancient papyrus has recently surfaced. On it is written, in ancient Coptic, what appear to be references, by Jesus (as in the Christ), to Mary, presumably Mary Magdalene, references in which he describes her as “my disciple” and as “my wife.” The document from which the papyrus comes is unknown, the translation of it open to question and it may even be an elaborate forgery but whatever the case may be, the major news networks picked up the story today, which really got Ryan Robertson’s goat. He’s full of that patented Newsbusters Outrage over the fact that while an anti-Muslim film “is still being blamed for the riots and murders in the Middle East, the national news media has no problem running a speculative story that disrespects the teachings of the Christian faith.”

Robertson whines that by giving this a little time today, “the major networks treated the story as if it deserved a considerable amount of attention.” An odd conclusion, as, by Robertson’s own account, the networks didn’t give it a considerable amount of attention.

As a rule, such discoveries are treated as, well, ancient history by the national news media. They’re rarely given much coverage and what little is offered is usually quite flawed, a state of affairs that has contributed to Americans’ generally spectacular ignorance of these matters. The network coverage of this strip of papyrus was certainly sensationalistic and, as usual, ill-informed[1] and if Robertson had any interest beyond peddling to his backwards readers his show of being outraged, he could have made a case for both. With regard to Karen King, the Harvard Divinity professor who has presented the papyrus scrap, Robertson notes that “King has her share of critics, both among practicing Christians and secular scholars,” but while he insists “neglecting to mention that fact is a deplorable oversight by the networks,” he offers no details himself to make his case,[2] nor does he make any case that scholarly disagreement with King would discredit the papyrus itself.

That is what he’s suggesting though.

One of Newsbusters’ specialties is, of course, libelous character assassination and though he can’t be bothered to build a substantive case against the coverage in this matter, Robertson can’t resist repeating an outrageous second-hand libel aimed at King by Bill Donohue. Donohue (whose name Robertson misspells) is, among other things, an associate of MRC founder Brent Bozell, the public face of the Catholic League, and a vocal defender of sexually abusive priests (did you see what I just did?). In what Robertson quotes, Donohue wrote of the professor:

King is known for her fertile imagination. For example, she previously claimed that Mary Magdalene was one of the apostles. Even better, in the book in which she made this extraordinary claim, she “rejects his [Jesus’] suffering and death as the path to eternal life.” Not much left after that.

None of these are examples of King’s “fertile imagination” though, nor are they examples of her expressing her own opinion. Rather, they are examples of King accurately relaying the contents of the non-canonical Gospel of Mary, in a book she wrote on the subject entitled “The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle.” Donahue would be advised to pray to his god that King is merciful toward libels.

–j.

[1] Jesus’ marital status was treated as a great mystery this could help solve, there were references to Dan Brown’s godawful “DaVinci Code” and so on.

[2] One would be that King argues for an earlier date for authorship of the non-canonical Gospel of Mary than most scholars allow.

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